Tuesday 13 June 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 13/6/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

Parting grift

The life of Silvio Berlusconi, who died yesterday at the age of 86, resembled the confection of a satirist seeking to make a point about the mingling of politics and show business, and the corruption of each by the other. When Berlusconi was born in Milan in 1936, Italy had neither television nor democracy – two things that enabled him to dominate the public life of his country to an extent matched by few, if any, other democratic leaders.

By the early 1980s, Berlusconi had, by hook or by crook, become extremely wealthy and influential. He launched a political party, Forza Italia, in 1994, consolidating and promoting an empire that included an array of unsurprisingly pro-Berlusconi media outlets and a football club, AC Milan.

His first government imploded swiftly. His second and third stints – from 2001 to 2006 and 2008 to 2011 – held together longer. But it was his cheerful defiance of the usual rules of politics and involvement in numerous scandals that made his time in office most memorable, as well as banefully influential. He was convicted of tax fraud, wiretapping a political rival and paying for sex with a minor. By his own estimation, he appeared in court more than 2,500 times in 106 different trials. He never spent a night in prison.

Reviewing his public life, it is difficult to pinpoint a single accomplishment unrelated to, or unmotivated by, the expansion of his fame, wealth and power. His real legacy, as observed by several similarly inclined politicians – Boris Johnson and Donald Trump are only his most obvious acolytes – might be the awesome, irresistible power of shamelessness. If you simply stop caring about what’s right and what’s wrong, you can’t really be guilty.

Andrew Mueller is a contributing editor at Monocle and host of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle Radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Alamy

Diplomacy / Iran

Mutual interests

Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi (pictured, on right), began a five-day tour of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua yesterday with the aim of strengthening economic and political co-operation in Latin America. Raisi’s choice of countries to visit is no accident: all have vocally opposed Western hegemony and been sanctioned by the US.

“These countries’ ailing economies desperately need Iran’s investment,” Fiona Macaulay, a Latin American politics expert at the University of Bradford, tells The Monocle Minute. “But Iran’s interest in co-operating with them is mostly due to their geopolitical proximity to the US. Apart from boosting bilateral ties, this visit is a symbolic snub to Washington.”

Image: Art Basel

Art / Switzerland

Fair play

The world’s most important art fair, Art Basel, opens its doors for its VIP preview in the Swiss city today. Having spent the past few days in Zürich for the exhibitions of Zürich Art Weekend, collectors and dealers are now headed for Basel’s Messeplatz, where they will be welcomed by a colossal new work by Moroccan artist Latifa Echakhch.

Inside, 284 galleries from around the world will be waiting with some of their best wares, kept aside for this unmissable commercial opportunity. All eyes will be on what this fair augurs for the global art market: the results at other smaller fairs and recent auctions suggest that inflation is having a cooling effect on sales. Art Basel, where some of the world’s most coveted and valuable works exchange hands, often proves resilient even in times of crisis. Discounts among these booths will be a sign that the tide is turning.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / USA

Don in the dock

Donald Trump is expected to surrender to authorities in Miami today in what will be the former US president’s second arraignment in two months. Last week, Trump, who is also seeking the Republican Party’s candidacy in next year’s presidential election, learnt that he will face seven federal charges related to the mishandling of classified documents. It follows a yearlong investigation into whether he wilfully retained and concealed documents related to national security at his home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida.

Trump has claimed that his arraignment is politically motivated – the result of bias on the part of US attorney-general Merrick Garland – and his fellow Republicans, including rivals for the 2024 candidacy, have rallied to his defence, many of them accusing Joe Biden’s government of “weaponising” the judicial system. It remains to be seen whether their perspective will change once the true nature of Trump’s charges is made public.

For more on Trump’s arraignment, tune in to‘The Globalist’, on Monocle Radio from 07.00 London time.

Image: Reuters

Energy / Japan

Troubled water

Fukushima Daiichi, the Japanese nuclear plant that was disabled after being extensively damaged in the 2011 tsunami, continues to be an insoluble problem. Yesterday the operators of the stricken site tested a new system designed to release into the ocean 100 tanks of water previously contaminated with radiation. Much of the radioactive material has been removed but some tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, remains, meaning that further dilution is required.

The plan is to start releasing the water in July but fishermen in the area are complaining that their livelihoods will be destroyed. Japan’s neighbours, including South Korea, are also uneasy. The Japanese government and the nuclear industry are in a bind. The long-term aim is to decommission the plant but there’s no quick fix: many challenges remain, requiring more research and technological development. Fukushima Daiichi continues to serve as a reminder of the complexities of managing nuclear power.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Urbanist

Rethinking spaces for transport

We explore some examples of adaptive reuse that are transforming old transit hubs – and designing new ones. Plus: the annual European Tramdriver Championship.

Monocle Films / Culture

Escape to la campagne: Normandy

Pierre-Edouard Robine traded city life to rediscover his farming roots in 2016. Since then, he has built a sparkling wine business and forages for Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris, alongside tending to his small herd of cattle. We travelled to his farm in La Courbe, Normandy, to lend a hand with tending the land and hear about the benefits of rural living.


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